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New Storms Threaten China

Southern China is bracing itself for heavy rains again threatening villages and cities around the country's second largest freshwater lake with serious flooding. Rain-bloated Dongting Lake has been receding, but new storms could push the water levels back up.

After days of building to dangerous levels, the waters of Dongting Lake in Hunan Province started falling on Sunday. At its peak, the water level reached almost 35 meters, but the flood crest passed safely and the system of dikes around the lake held.

Now another 70 millimeters of rain have been predicted for the region during the coming days, and the people of Hunan are again bracing for possible new flooding.

After days of clear skies and high temperatures, a pre-dawn thunderstorm hit the area of Dongting, but abated after about three-hours and turned to a steady drizzle.

The lake covers 4,000 square kilometers, the size of Luxembourg, and its shores are home to 10 million people.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers have been mobilized in the region, working frantically to protect the dike network. Officials in Changsha, Hunan's capital, have ordered 2,000 troops and 300,000 public employees to help battle the waters.

The authorities have called for renewed efforts to prevent the dikes from collapsing after several days of exposure to the flood waters. television.

As the dikes had been in water for so long, danger could strike at any time, but we are confident to win the battle," said Liu Xinyun, a flood control official, on China's state-controlled CCTV television.

The flood crest is heading towards the industrial city of Wuhan, in Hubei Province, just to the north of the lake, and is expected to hit that city of seven-million people Tuesday.

Officials say embankments protecting Wuhan have been reinforced since 1998, when floods killed more than four-thousand people in China. But the city has been placed on a state of emergency just in case.

And help is coming from outside as well. Reports say Germany, which suffered severe flooding during the past few weeks, is providing one-million sandbags to help protect Wuhan.

More than 900 Chinese have died in floods since the heavy rains began last June.